Our church enters a second full month of offering a contemporary service as an alternative to the earlier traditional service we also hold each Sunday. And we are in a second week of study and prayer designed to last 40 days. Several small group sessions are held, and most of our active members attend one each week.
The theme is evangelism, an informally forbidden word in most mainstream churches, but one making its way back into our vocabulary. It is early in our 6 week journey, but I think we are slowly heading toward the conclusion that reaching out comes most naturally to those of us learning to find in our hearts an honest concern for others. It takes many forms, and folks have differing comfort levels.
Our pastor is a young man. He is in his 40s. He is soft spoken and exudes a quiet sort of passion during his sermons. He often speaks of forgiveness and redemption. He is in a six week sermon series that corresponds with our 40 day study. He plays guitar and sings, providing, I suppose, a comfortable way of self-expression. His talent forms much of our new contemporary service.
I attend both services, more actively participating in contemporary. Our traditional service has a practice not unknown in many houses of worship. At one point in our prayers, we have a moment in which members of the congregation softly speak the names of those of special concern for them. We hear a hundred indistinct voices calling out in earnest prayer. It is a beautiful moment.
As I pray, I name a relative in constant mortal danger from illness, I speak for a cousin who has been in danger for years and who now recovers from heart surgery, I say the name of a young man killed on the streets of Carbondale, Illinois, and a friend I have not heard from for weeks who is stationed in Afghanistan.
Finally, I call for God's mercy and care for a friendly young man I knew from work some years back, a fellow I spoke with about worship from time to time, but whom I never invited to a service. I do not know that I feel responsible for his suicide one afternoon, but I do now try to be more sensitive to those who may be in crisis. As I speak his name aloud, my voice joins the many others with whom I worship. The names our voices carry blend into a gentle cacophony of common prayer.
And I look on evangelism a little more expansively than I once did.
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